Living in Naperville, one can easily be fooled into thinking that the innumerable strip malls and suburban houses make up the rest of Ill. as well. Yet, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, about 75% of the state is covered in farmland. This statistic came as no surprise to Junior Martina Ruiz, who grew up in the small rural town of Peotone, Ill. until she moved to Naperville in 8th grade.
“It was basically a lot of corn fields everywhere,” she said. “On my way to school that is all I would see. It is nothing like Naperville at all.”
When describing what it was like living in such a small town, Ruiz explained that being a kid in Peotone could get very boring because there was not much to do.
“There was nothing really close to us,” she said. “The nearest town was Frankfort about 30 min away. We had no mall or movie theatre. All we had was a grocery store. For fun sometimes people who had cars would go mudding in the corn fields.” In contrast, when she came to Naperville she was pleased to discover the downtown area and various shops and restaurants nearby her house. “I like Naperville a lot more because there is a lot more stuff to do here and there are a lot more shops and things where I live,” she said. “There is way more stuff to do with your friends and it’s easier to go places.”
Ruiz explained how the school systems in Naperville are also significantly better in comparison to Peotone, which was one of the main reasons her family decided to move.
“The schools were underfunded and they were talking about cutting sports and stuff which would have been really bad, especially because I was interested in going to college for softball, so staying would have taken away that opportunity from me,” she said.
When she moved to Lincoln Junior High she was surprised by how updated the school was.
“The buildings in Peotone were all built a really long time ago,” she said. “Also, my junior high didn’t have very good AC or heating so it was really hot or really cold in the school. At Lincoln, everything was very upgraded, which was really nice. Also, in Naperville schools chromebooks and technology are very common, but we didn’t have anything like that.”
Ruiz’s sister Gabriella Ruiz moved as a sophomore as part of Central’s 2018 graduating class. She also found many more benefits as a student and a person in Naperville.
“In Naperville, you have an unlimited amount of opportunities for you, not only through the school system but also socially and through trying to find a job,” she said.
Still, there are things that the sisters miss about their old town. Martina misses her friends that she grew up and also the close-knit environment that develops from being in a small town.
“It’s kind of nice knowing that everyone knows everyone instead of going to school where everyday you see people in the hallway and you think ‘I have no idea who that is, I have never seen them before,” she said.
She observed that her interaction with students in Naperville were also very different from Peatone.
“People are nice in Naperville and in Peotone,” she said. “But sometimes in Naperville people seem to speak from a place of privilege like talking about what items from Lululemon they own and what things they have, which wasn’t as important in Peotone.”
Overall, Martina is happy to be in Naperville and grateful for all of the opportunities that she is receiving because of it, but is also glad to have experienced a childhood in Peotone with a different environment and demographic. In her eyes, both places have played important roles in shaping who she is as a person today.